Academy City! Home to the reality-redefining espers, able to alter natural law at will and filled with scientific marvels! For student Touma Kamijou, it is merely the setting of the endless series of humiliations, failures, and mishaps that is his life. His school marks are dismal and accidents dog his heels. His esper power, Imagine Breaker, the ability to negate all unnatural powers, is1 dismissed as Level Zero, the very lowest of rating in Academy City.
Today’s translated work is Robert Merle’s Malevil, first published in French in 1972 and translated into English by Derek Coltman in 1973. I remember it being pretty popular in the 1970s, enough that it got a movie adaptation in 1981, but as far as I can tell it has almost entirely fallen into obscurity1 and out of print. That’s a pity, because Merle has some interesting angles on well-tested tropes.
Like Masuji Ibuse, Keiji Nakazawa (1939 – 2012) was a native of Hiroshima. Unlike Ibuse, Nakazawa was in Hiroshima on August sixth, 1945 and while he and his mother survived the destruction of Hiroshima, his father, two sisters and younger brother died as a result of it. Nakazawa’s manga series Barefoot Gen is a thinly veiled autobiographical work, telling the story of the destruction of Hiroshima and the immediate aftermath from a small boy named Gen, just the same age the author was when Hiroshima was destroyed.
Shizuma Shigematsu, his wife Shigeko and their niece Yasuko all survived the Monday, August 6, 1945 attack on Hiroshima, experiencing the event from the perspective of varying distances from the epicenter. Shizuma was nearest the explosion and Yasuko sufficiently far away to suffer none of the immediate effects like translational injury, thermal burns or prompt radiation injury from the explosion itself. While husband and wife suffered from radiation illness in the years since, Yasuko herself appears to have escaped unharmed.
When I selected this, I had no memory of the plot at all despite the fact my copy of the book is well worn. It seemed suitable that issues of history, forgotten and rewritten, play such a central role in this novel of the mid-1990s so I thank the endless series of head injuries I have suffered for their contribution to this reading experience.
For some reason the cover says this was edited by “Haikasoru” but that is a stand-in for Nick Mamatas and Masumi Washington. As explained in Mamatas’ introduction, the intention here is de-exoticize so if you’re looking for something to reinforce an impression of Japan as Other and Enchantedly Unknowable, look to other works for support in that endeavor.
Washington for her part makes a point of thanking the translators; they often go unnoticed (and I think in at least one book I am considering for review, uncredited) but anyone who has read a bad translation next to a superior one will know how crucial they are. Lesser publishers could learn from Haikasoru.
I should be better read in the Strugatsky Brothers’ oeuvre than I actually am so when I get the chance to read something of theirs, particularly a modern translation, I take advantage of it.
Between our time and that of 17-year-old Noria Kaitio is the Twilight Century, a period of climate-change-driven chaos left the world a much poorer place. Noria lives in the Scandinavian Union, which in turn takes its direction from New Qian. Democracy is a thing of the past, as it generally is in stories like this, and government is very much top down. A sensible person in these circumstances either tries to exploit a dying system for ephemeral personal power or they try to avoid attracting the attention of ambitious people. Noria rejects one and fails at the other.
So the thing about me and math is I took a lot of math classes in high school despite a near complete lack of aptitude and interest in the subject and except for calculus, which for some reason clicked1, I generally had mediocre marks. Some people find math beautiful for itself,
perverts good for them, but I was generally only ever interested in it to the extent I could use math as a tool to examine subjects I did care about, which is why I can rattle off mass ratios (as long as Vdelta/Vexhaust is an exponent of e I’ve memorized) or but am crap at most other applications. Which is a long way of saying I was probably the wrong person to review this book.
I’ve read this author’s Brave Story and The Book of Heroes and what I noticed then was that I preferred the shorter book of the two, because it was more focused and had fewer unnecessary digressions. Logically I should prefer a collection of short stories to the novels and indeed that is the case.